Dr. Joseph Wilson and Kara DiGiacomo

Organizations from all sectors, teachers from all communities, and even politicians on both sides of the aisle agree that an excellent science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education opens doors of opportunity for all students. Great teachers give students the skills to be competitive in the STEM-sector jobs which will increase 17 percent in the next four years – but more importantly, they impart the passion to explore, discover, and create upon our next generation of leaders. The simple truth is that we need more great STEM teachers in our nation’s classrooms.

Teach For America and the Biogen Idec Foundation are committed to ensuring all students have access to high-quality STEM experiences. We are thrilled to announce a five-year collaboration to provide recruitment, training, and professional development opportunities to STEM corps members, as well as high-quality STEM educational opportunities for students in under-resourced communities.

I grew up in the early ’60s and was 6 years old when the Civil Rights Act was passed, opening up social and economic opportunities for persons of color. Despite this historic legislation, my parents, both enrolled members of the Oglala Lakota Nation, were born before American Indians were granted United States citizenship. My mom and dad each experienced the oppression, cruelty, and forced assimilation of government-run boarding schools, and this followed them well into the 1970s, when American Indians began to organize their collective voices as first Nations people.   

Today there was a piece in The Nation discussing an internal memo (you can see the full document here) about how we respond to factual inaccuracies in traditional and social media. Like most organizations we have a media response strategy, and in the interest of transparency, I want to share how we’re thinking about addressing the public feedback we get.

One strain of feedback comes from corps members, alumni, partners and critical friends who have ideas for how we can evolve and continue to get better. We know that listening to these voices will only result in a more effective program that better serves students both today and in the long run.  Based on their advice and what we’ve learned over time, we’re partnering more closely with communities and doing more to support corps members as they develop their conviction about all that’s possible for our public education system. These changes are described more fully in a recent letter that our co-CEOs sent to our alumni network, which you can read here.

A few years ago, well into my thirties, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. As we close out ADHD Awareness Month, I’ve been thinking a lot about this experience.

In some ways, this was not news. My memories of my own education primarily revolve around the ways I wasn't learning -- disrupting classes, skipping lectures, doing little homework and reading few books. I couldn't maintain focus on what a teacher was saying for more than a few minutes, and I couldn't read more than a few paragraphs at a time. Even the slightest distraction -- noise from a television a few rooms away -- would render me completely unable to concentrate.

Last week, we received a second letter from the group United Students Against Sweatshops via email. When the group reached out a few weeks ago to share concerns with our approach, we responded, including an invitation to meet for further discussion. Since these letters are being sent publicly, we’ve provided detailed corrections on the misinformation they include here, and wanted to share our latest email below.

Matt’s email response to USAS:

Dear Blake,

Thank you for your response to our letter. I am glad to hear that you’ll sit down with us. I would welcome you and your colleagues to our offices in New York if that would be convenient, but I am equally happy with another location if you’d prefer. While Elisa is out on maternity leave following the birth of her son, I’ll have to represent the both of us, and may bring a few of my colleagues who are directly involved in our work preparing and supporting teachers across the country, so that they can hear from you directly.  Some dates that could work in the next month are: 10/28, 10/29, 10/30, 11/11, 11/12, and 11/13. Given the role that Randi Weingarten and the AFT are playing in supporting your efforts, we’d also welcome her if you’d like to encourage her to join us. 

I am an educator. I have the honor of teaching pre-school in Las Vegas. I get to spend my days with the future. I get to look into their eyes full of hope. I get to empower their minds with questions and challenges.


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